The Iranian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement reiterating that a South Korean ship was impounded in the Persian Gulf waters on Monday purely over technical and environmental issues.
The statement by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that local officials in the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan had made it clear that the seizure of the South Korea-flagged MT Hankuk Chemi was merely because it had been polluting the waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
“Based on reports received from local authorities, the issue is purely technical and the ship has been redirected to the coast based on a judicial order for examination of the violation that occurred,” said Khatibzadeh in the statement.
The spokesman described the ship seizure as normal, saying such moves takes place routinely in Iranian waters and in other areas.
The statement said that further information on the issue would be available soon.
It came in response to some reports suggesting that Iran had detained the South Korean ship in a bid to pressure Seoul to release billions of Iranian funds that have been blocked in two South Korean banks under American pressure.
Iranian authorities have said on several occasions that they expect South Korea to do more on the funds, which amount to nearly $8.5 billion.
In a weekly briefing with reporters on Monday, Khatibzadeh said that Iran was dissatisfied with the pace of South Korea’s efforts to have the funds released.
“Unfortunately, this process is progressing very slowly and we are not happy with the issue,” said Khatibzadeh.
He said, however, that he expected the two countries could finally settle the case during an imminent trip by South Korea’s deputy foreign minister to Tehran.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said on Monday that the county’s foreign ministry and its embassy in Tehran had been informed about the safety and well-being of 20 crewmembers of MT Hankuk Chemi. It said the crewmembers included 5 Koreans, 11 Myanmarese, two Indonesians and two Vietnamese.